Getting Started with Open Source Software

December 12, 2007


Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking to a number of business owners about IT services. One of our principles is to use open source software whenever possible to help lower development and licensing costs. Although, I still find that many businesses are simply not aware of the free software.

As with anything, the best way to learn about something, is by example. So here are several good examples of Open Source Software that you can use within your business. But before we get started here is a quick explanation…

What is it Open Source Software?

In basic terms its free software that can be used in businesses and at home. Although unlike Freeware which is just free software, open source software doesn’t belong to anyone, which means you can have access to the inner works of the software, called the source code. So if your company doesn’t like how the software works, they can have it changed.

Creating PDF Documents


You don’t need to purchase expensive software to produce Portable Document Files or PDF’s. Instead download and install PDFCreator which creates a virtual PDF printer on your machine. Once installed, you can convert any file into a PDF documents simply by launching the relevant application and selecting the PDF printer when printing. PDFCreator will then ask you where you would like to save your newly created PDF.

Microsoft Office Alternative

office desk, computer coffee and mouse

Open Office is a full office suite which shares many of the features and styles found in Microsoft Office. What’s more, it can open and edit existing Microsoft Office documents. Open Office contains a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and drawing applications. So, if you have computers without Office and can’t quite justify the expenditure, why not give Open Office a bash.

Mapping Ideas

mind maps

I think mind map software is a great product for all types of businesses. Although you can create hieratical charts within Microsoft office, they are often to formal for creating ideas. FreeMind is piece of software where you start with a centralised idea (hub or trunk) and branch out ideas and as you formulate your project, the map grows. The idea is not be accurate or too formal, just a quickly way to get your ideas recorded.

Plan your projects using Mind Mapping software

Photo and Graphical Editing


Although Adobe Photoshop is an excellent piece of software, it comes with a heft price tag and is quite often over kill for most users needs. There are cheap alternatives, but if you still need something with advance features, then GIMP could be the ticket. Paint.Net is also worth considering as middle weight application and if you need a vector editing package, InkScape.

Compressing Files


Back in the day when you wanted to compress a file or send a batch of files via email, you would use a program like WinZip. Since 2001 Windows has incorporated compression or file zipping as standard. Although you may still find the need for something more powerful that can split files, encrypt, password protect and open other compression formats such RAR files etc. Step in 7zip, which has all the features you will every need when it comes to compressing and un-compressing files.

Give me more

Want more?

Still not enough, check out Open Source Alternative.

What are your favourite open source products for the desktop?

Terinea Tags: open source software, , , ,

Related posts:

  1. BBC Explanation of Open Source
  2. Open Source Auditing Software
  3. Open Source HR Software (Human Resources)
  4. Open Source Helpdesk Software – Part One
  5. What Open Source Alternatives are There To Microsoft Exchange that can run on Windows?

Author: Support @ 4:10 pm
Category: Open Source


  1. Thunderbird and Sunbird are both great but personally I feel that Thunderbird with the Lightning extension offers much more to the user. Admittedly, it isn’t yet an Outlook killer but not everyone needs all of the features of Outlook.

    Comment by Nev — December 13, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  2. I heard IBM is trying to develop an Outlook killer.

    We have a couple of clients who where using Outlook Express and have given them Thunderbird with Sunbird, and are quite happy with it.


    Maybe see you on Sunday in the Park Bar?

    Comment by Terinea Weblog — December 14, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  3. Thanks for a good post and recommendations. There are indeed so many good alternatives. And with the trend growing even more towards open source, also the helps and support become better available. Something very important for a stable development of an open source software.

    Hopefully we’ll see more and more businesses switch to open source.

    Comment by Paula — January 3, 2008 @ 8:26 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment